Sikorsky executives today explained their strategy for moving their S-97 Raider coaxial rotor design forward in the Army's armed aerial scout contest despite the fact that their design isn't flying yet.
"We're developing two prototype aircraft with the purpose of demonstrating this type of capability with the target of hitting the armed aerial scout," said Doug Shidler, Sikorsky's Raider program manager, when I asked him today how the company planned to effectively bid on the armed aerial scout contest with their unbuilt chopper at a press conference where Shidler was announcing the Raider's 35 supplier companies.
"There aren't any requirements out there yet for the armed aerial scout but what we're trying to do is demonstrate that with new technology you can provide a great deal more capability to the Army versus extending the current fleet that has capabilities that have existed for many, many years," said Shidler.
Keep in mind that the Army seems to largely be interested in developing an existing airframe into a new scout chopper.
Steve Engebretson, Sikorsky's man in charge of winning the scout contest, added his two cents when I asked how the company can compete for the scout contract if it doesn't have a prototype that can fly in this spring's scout chopper demo.
"We have been told that everyone who was considered in the [Army's analysis of alternatives for replacing the Kiowa Warrior chopper fleet] will have the opportunity to respond to the RfI we were one of the products included in the AoA," said Engebretson. "The airplanes that fly [in the demo], and this is my understanding of what the Army is looking for, will be evaluated to see whether there is an existing capability good enough to meet the next AAS requirement. The other products, like ours, that were also evaluated in the AoA will get to come in and show off where our technology is, what we're gonna cost, what our timeline looks like and how viable we are. We've got a ton of data, we've got 35 companies building hardware, we think we're gonna be in a very good position to demonstrate the fact that we'll provide a capability that will outdo anything that exists today at a timeline that will still meet the Army's requirements."
The S-97 is designed to be able to fly at 250 knots and turn in half the radius of current helos. The first flight of the Sikorsky's demonstrator choppers is set for 2014. If the company is awarded a contract to build scout helos, it can begin production around 2021 and start fielding the choppers around 2025.
Engebretson went on to say that the coaxial technology upon which the Raider is based has already been proven, by Sikorsky's record breaking X2 chopper and a number of existing tech that is being designed for use on the Raider.
"This is a fairly mature level of technology, it's a new design, it's next generation capability but it's not a high-risk type of approach," said Engebretson. "We're going to demonstrate it to show that it's an achievable in the timeline that's there for the military requirements and that it's going to be affordable as well."
He also revealed that the Raider is one of the four technologies Sikorsky is considering offering up for the Pentagon's next generation Joint Multirole Helo effort. He wouldn't say what the other three technologies are.